As with many industries, gambling has truly been shaken up by the invention of the internet. Where once the industry was dominated by large brick-and-mortar casino conglomerates, long-established high street bookies, and state-approved national lotteries, now there is an absolute plethora of options made possible thanks to the world wide web. As is often the case, this disruption has been driven predominantly by start-ups – innovative new companies daring to try something new.
In the follow article, we’ll look at some of the most revolutionary start-ups and their impact on the gambling industry. We’ll then cast an eye to the future and the companies innovating using even more cutting-edge technology to transform the way punters bet online.
Microgaming and the Early Innovators
One of the most important early start-ups responsible for disrupting the established gambling industry was certainly Microgaming. Formed in 1994, the firm launched its first casino-inspired game that year. Evidently, the largely unknown Microgaming founders were sharp on the uptake regarding the potential of the internet going forward. Back in 1994, most folk barely had heard of the internet, let alone had a personal connection running into their home!
Another crucial innovation by an early gambling start-up was the creation of safe payment methods for casinos to accept deposit securely. CryptoLogic, a firm based in Dublin and founded by brothers Andrew and Mark Rivkin in 1995, was responsible for this vital component to the rise of online gambling. The following year, CryptoLogic was involved in the launch of the planet’s first online casino accepting real money.
These companies were swiftly joined by many other start-ups who had been inspired by the efforts of CryptoLogic and Microgaming. The year following InterCasino’s launch, 15 websites had exploded into more than 200.
Start-Ups Power the Poker Boom
One of the events that really drove the acceptance of online gambling world wide was the 2003 World Series of Poker. The biggest tournament of the poker calendar was actually won by the appropriately-named Chris Moneymaker, who took down a tasty $2.5 million at the legendary Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas, Nevada. The inspiring thing about Moneymaker’s victory was that the unheard-of player qualified via an online satellite for less than $100.
This rags to riches tale would drive millions around the world to give online poker a try and start-ups specialising in the much-loved card game such as PokerStars, PartyPoker, the soon-to-be-launched Full Tilt Poker were on hand to absorb much of this traffic – themselves becoming some of the biggest names in the online gambling industry in the process. Between these big names in online poker, a huge number of innovations were made possible.
New game formats were popularised. Initially, single table “sit-and-go” games played using tournament rules were all the rage. Eventually, other game formats would come to the big platforms. Examples of these include multi-table sit-and-go games, progressive knock-out tournaments, and the ultra-rapid hyper-turbo structure applied to various formats.
Although it was Texas Hold ‘Em that initially caught the imagination of the general public following Moneymaker’s victory, the sheer size of player pools meant that more niche games could be offered too. These included Razz, different forms of stud poker, Limit Hold ‘Em, and variants of Omaha. By offering services worldwide (in legal jurisdictions, of course), these online poker start-ups could provide more tables than ever dreamed off in a traditional brick-and-mortar casino. Compare your chances of success finding a few other people who want to play $2/4 Razz at five o’clock on a Wednesday morning at your local casino versus the same game and time at PokerStars, and you can soon see the appeal.
A Wave of Creativity
Alongside the poker boom, start-ups were innovating in other areas of online gambling. The following 15 years would see traditional forms of betting revolutionised and many more come to market.
As the sped of connections improved and live video streaming became a possibility, gambling start-ups were quick to capitalise on technology once again. These days, just about every online casino has some form of live casino offering games such as blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and others.
Start-ups such as Evolution Gaming and NetEnt have been integral in bringing the next-best-thing to the excitement of the casino floor into the homes of punters. The ability to see a dealer responding to the action in real-time has also meant that more players than ever have built trust in online casino platforms. Many early critics of online gambling had often argued that games would be too easy to rig for an online venue to be deemed trustworthy.
Another area in which start-ups and, of course, the now established firms of the industry that were once newcomers themselves have been able to use technology to drive iGaming innovation is through mobile gambling. As smartphones started to become popular at the end of the first decade of the new century, it became clear that existing online casino providers and new ones to the space would need to provide mobile support to stay relevant. Quickly, designated applications for the planet’s top online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms became the norm.
As web design progressed, these were gradually replaced by mobile-optimised websites and games, meaning that all action could be enjoyed from within a browser, making online casinos even more accessible than ever before.
Innovation Just Getting Started
Of course, these are just a few of the ways in which start-ups have helped to disrupt the established gambling industry over the years. There are many more examples of innovative start-ups from the world of online gambling that highlight the constant creativity occurring in the space too and new entrants appear regularly.
In 2019, a whole new group of start-ups are poised to continue disrupting using the latest set of cutting-edge technologies. Some , such as ZenSports, Edgeless, and Bethereum Limited, are focused on blockchain technology and its impact on payments as well as transparent game data storage. This latter fact has allowed for the development of “provably fair” systems, which make online gambling more trustworthy than ever.
Other start-ups are focused on bringing a poker tournament-like betting experience to the world of eSports. This will allow talented amateur players to monetise their passion by backing themselves in events. One of the few companies offering such functionality is 1StopEsports.
Change is the only constant as new ideas become reality
Finally, start-ups are working with technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality to further transform the gambling experience of tomorrow. Amongst other things, AI can provide a more efficient customer support services, as well as greater ability to monitor players’ suspicious activity.
Meanwhile, different firms are experimenting with bringing VR technology to various games to further stimulate gamblers. For now, much of this innovation builds on the work of Evolution and other start-ups behind the rise of Live Casino offerings.
Two start-ups working towards such ends are Boyd Gaming and International Game Technology. Both have created VR products for casinos already and this is just the beginning. The eventual scope of VR gambling could see you playing seven-card stud against a table of international players in whichever location you please. It might be Binion’s Horseshoe in 2003, the casino aboard the Titanic, or even in Middle Earth!